Miso is fermented soy bean paste and is a traditional ingredient used daily in the Japanese diet. It is fermented with rice (which is a gluten free version), wheat or oats and sometimes contains seaweed garnish. Miso is useful during illness, when you don't have much of an appetite and very little energy, as it's a rich vegetable source of vitamins, including Vitamin B12, micro-organisms, salts, minerals, plant proteins, isoflavanoids, carbohydrates and fat.
This humble foodstuff turns out to have a big impact on our health, ranging from relieving fatigue and regulating and supporting the digestive system to decreasing both cholesterol levels and blood pressure and preventing diseases associated with lifestyle, including various cancers.
When the second atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki in August of 1945, physician Tatuichiro Akizuki, along with 20 employees, was taking care of 70 patients with TB (tuberculosis) at Uragami Daiichi Hospital, about 1.5 km away from the hypocentre. However, these patients, including Dr. Akizuki himself, did not show signs of any acute radiation disease. Dr. Akizuki considered that this was the result of consuming cups of wakame (a type of seaweed) miso soup every day. Dr. Akizuki is considered to be the first person in Japan to point out radioprotective effects of miso for maintaining health, which has resulted in further studies, one of which showed that a certain concentration of the effective substances in miso must exist in the blood before exposure to radiation, rather than taking miso after exposure.
For protection from hypertension, one study reported that taking miso soup together with protein and potassium and magnesium-rich vegetables such as spinach, wakame or other seaweeds prevented increases in blood pressure even in people who were salt-sensitive.
One study showed that an intake of miso decreased large intestinal cancers, reporting that taking two cups of miso soup per day reduced the number of specific types of colon cancers. Another study reported that consumption of tofu and soybean decreased the number of rectal tumors.
A study reported that consuming a cup of miso three times a day reduced the occurrence of breast cancer but found that tofu, soybean and fried bean curd did not have such an effect. But many studies have indicated that it is the fermentation process involved in producing miso that is key in its health benefits as this is considered to be when the substances that inhibit growth of tumors might be produced.
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